Review: Nikon P60 as a Cave Camera

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Review: Nikon P60 as a Cave Camera

Postby self-deleted_user » Apr 18, 2011 1:45 pm

So as some of you may or may not know, I recently snagged Nikon P60 for $50 from ebay. I was disappointed with the lack of manual controls on a p&s after being so used to my dSLR, but yet, I am unwilling to lug that into a cave. But, a lot of crossovers are ultrazooms and really I don't want a huge thing to carry around. Also, it has long been my theory that while some cameras obviously have limitations, a good photographer can get a good photo with any camera (ideally, yeah camera limitations and some are just shit especially for specialized uses like low light and whatnot) SO.

Working list of why I chose the P60 in black, and in purple after are my notes after using it all this weekend in 2 caves:
PROS:
- Reviews say it does well in low light conditions across the board Definitly true. Even in a cave I could see stuff in the air, even flash photos were not coming out with a lot of halos, and most, no halos at all, which I was very surprised at. The sensor focuses very well in low light conditions, however on mine (maybe since it is old and used?) seems to sometimes not want to switch focusing from farther away to more zoomed/macro but turning it off/back on would fix it. Not sure why it does that, but it was an easy fix and like I said, it's an old model camera so could be just this one. And it wasn't bad - on/off cycle takes about 10 sec at most, it's fast.

- 5x optical is what my current p&s has, before that the one I destroyed was only 3x so I think it’s good enough, still a decent range it’s 36-180mm equiv, my fav overall lens for my dSLR is 18-200 range was fine. Got amazing closeups, and good wide-angles.

- Manual focus mode This i was dissapointed on. I thought this meant I could have actual control over it. No. What it actually means that instead of autoselecting focus for you, it means you get to pick from a grid on the screen in 8 x 11 (so 88 possible points) of where you want it to focus /for/ you. you're not actually changing it yourself, just telling it where to look.

- Manual f/stop and shutter speed (a fully manual) mode For the f/stop I was dissapointed. You only get 2 options at each focal length. f/3.6 and f/8.5 at 36mm equiv, and fully extended at 180mm equiv is f/4.5 and f/10.9. Shutter speed was fine, 8 sec to 1/1200, with good numbers between.

- Programmed auto mode Sadly programmed auto didn't mean what I thought it did, I thought it meant I could program it for lightpainting, say, and it'd remember that. No, it means that it picks the f/stop and shutter speed for you, but you can manually do ISO and do manual focusing, which you can't on their auto mode.

- Uses 2xAA batteries, so you don’t have to worry about running out of battery on a long trip This is really awesome. And it does use rechargables, so it'll run long time :)

- ISO seems to do well as far as not being grainy up to around 600/800 Seemed to hold true.

- It is small ( 2.5 x 3.8 x 1.5 inches) Indeed, perfectly fits in a Pelican 1010 case. I mean perfectly.

- I like that it has the eye viewfinder I ended up not using it, actually, to my surprise. But it is a nice option.

- The flash is amazingly great - even in wide angle photos in rooms I could visually see things in the air, I rarely got halos. Very nice surprise!

- Focusing is really great. Honestly, I ended up using this camera more on auto than on manual. It did amazing of selecting the proper settings for the lighting and focusing properly all on it's own without me telling it what to do. So often in the interest of not holding people up too much (unless we were all taking photos) I often just used what it figured out itself. Very surprising to find that.


CONS: still all cons, but what do you expect with a pocket size point and shoot?
- Doesn’t shoot in RAW (but very few p&s do, have to get up to the high end almost-slr ones to get that)
- No A/S/P modes (ditto)
- No accessory shoe (ditto)


But, a photo is worth 1000 words, right? So here goes.

Taken on auto, with flash, in a room that I saw tons of stuff in the air with my own eyes. You can see some dull halos in the dark areas in the back, but that's about all.
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Auto with flash on macro of gypsum flowers (eeee first time I've seen gypsum! :D)
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Manual focus engaged, macro, low f/stop to get the dof, ahh that gypsum area was sooo purdy and sparkly! So is this just like popcorn coated in sparkly gypsum or does it have a special name?
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Manual focus egaged and up close, to try and blur for bokeh for sparkles as I had troubles figuring out how to get how uber clean and sparkly this whole area was.
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Manual focus engaged #2 same image but less out of focus
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Another use of the manual focus on some popcorn covered walls
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Lightpainting....this was a gorgeous pure white formation room...by now that 600ft straight belly crawl was definitely worth it and I'd forgotten about having to go back through that to leave! Also, we totally never did find this walking passage that was promised. Apparently duckwalking is considered walking, as that was the best we got, even us short folk.
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Closer up in the white room, this time using flash + side lighting.
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Same spot, side lighting it.
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Close up with flash of about a 10 inch soda straw pillar thing (it went ceiling to floor, but it was a soda straw), only half formed in one spot. How sweet is that?
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Past that room was more amazing white formations...like this 20+ foot tall crevice upwards (I know, couldn't stand up here despite the height, geesh! :P) This was with flash as well.
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Sidelighting the floor in that room, it was shades of white but I LOVED the texture...what is this called, btw?
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And it didn't even do so bad in the crazy lighting conditions of all the backlight looking upward from yes, ME, on rope. In a freakin' cave. Oh yeah.
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And the view back down....
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eeeeeeee!

So yeah there you go.

Overall, I <3 it. I think it's as good as you'll get without going fully dSLR, to be honest.
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Re: Review: Nikon P60 as a Cave Camera

Postby NZcaver » Apr 18, 2011 5:25 pm

Thanks for taking the time to post your review, Amy. :kewl:

Coincidentally I gave a "cave photography 101" presentation last weekend, and people are always interesting in knowing about different camera options. Despite my not being a Nikon fan, this model seems somewhat promising although the lack of aperture control would be a major limitation for me. Does the f-stop on this Nikon control the physical aperture (like with most SLRs), or is it an electronic (simulated) aperture?

Have you tried using an off-camera (slave) flash with this camera? Any FYI, high ISO is often not the best choice for good cave photography because the blacks end up too grainy. You should be able to get good results for most shots between ISO 100 and 400.
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Re: Review: Nikon P60 as a Cave Camera

Postby self-deleted_user » Apr 18, 2011 7:11 pm

I can't find out on the aperture but I think it's electronic tbh since I can't see anything moving in the lens when changing between the two options. The lens has 9 elements in 7 groups.

And yeah I hated that too. Their site specs said "f/3.6-4.5" and I assumed better stops between than that. So I was disappointed in that regard as I said.

The vibration reduction on this P60 is actually true VR though (CCD-shift not electronic) and that difference is one I forgot to mention - I uh, don't use a tripod since I don't have one and my images are a lot less blurry on this vs my other nikon p&s that is just electronic VR.

Personally I like Nikons for the sake that I can't stand Cannons and other brands I wasn't able to find some sort of "crossover" that was relatively cheap. The straight p&s line of Nikons I don't much like (the S series and no-letter-series ones in particular) but i've never had luck using cannons - somehow their controls aren't intuitive for me and confuse me and I can't figure out how to get what I want with them.

I don't have a slave flash, so no, I have not tried using that. All non-camera lighting was using my Apex or Corona headlamps.

And yeah, I keep it in lower ISO's normally to keep the grainyness away but just noted it didn't get horrible until 600-800.
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Re: Review: Nikon P60 as a Cave Camera

Postby Extremeophile » Apr 18, 2011 8:34 pm

Sungura wrote: I think it's as good as you'll get without going fully dSLR, to be honest.


IMHO this is the best cave camera short of a dSLR:

http://panasonic.net/avc/lumix/compact/lx5/index.html

Super fast lens, large chip, very sensitive in low-light, great image stabilization, full manual control, hot shoe, relatively compact, 24mm wide angle - everything you need. Here are a couple photos from last weekend:


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Re: Review: Nikon P60 as a Cave Camera

Postby self-deleted_user » Apr 18, 2011 8:46 pm

Oooh very nice. Never gotten my hands on a Panasonic. Bummer bit is the price, for us poor wanting something <=$100 folk, that one is even used in the $300-$400 range. Which other than the fact of being nice and compact looking, at that price I feel more like dragging a dSLR into a cave (I see D60's and D70's with lenses poping up on CL around here for $350-$400 all the time). Now if I can snag on on ebay for around $100 that's a different story. Thanks for the link!
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Re: Review: Nikon P60 as a Cave Camera

Postby NZcaver » Apr 18, 2011 11:06 pm

Extremeophile wrote:IMHO this is the best cave camera short of a dSLR:

http://panasonic.net/avc/lumix/compact/lx5/index.html

I'll see your f2 lens, and raise you my f1.8. :boxing: :tonguecheek: :woohoo:

Seriously though, the LX5 is a nice looking camera. Physically it looks similar to the Canon G series. Appears slightly more compact than my old clunker, with a nice wide-ish angle lens. Do they make an underwater housing for it? Are you able to set the flash for single pulse (no pre-flash) and adjust the flash EV manually?

This would be worthy of its own review. Feel free to start a new topic when you have some free time. :waving:
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Re: Review: Nikon P60 as a Cave Camera

Postby self-deleted_user » Apr 19, 2011 12:43 pm

Mmmmm I <3 low f/stop cameras. I think messing with dof is my favourite thing to do in a lot of photos!

If anyone knows of cameras more manual than the P60 but still in the <=$100 price range, feel free to lmk. I just don't have funds for more right now. I bookmarked both those cameras though for future Amy Who Doesn't Eat Raman Noodles so she can afford to go caving. :woohoo:
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Re: Review: Nikon P60 as a Cave Camera

Postby NZcaver » Apr 19, 2011 4:44 pm

I could make some suggestions... but you hate Canons :nyah: so my efforts would probably just be a waste of electrons. :whistle:
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Re: Review: Nikon P60 as a Cave Camera

Postby self-deleted_user » Apr 19, 2011 5:14 pm

Well...suggest away maybe. I've really only played with 2 cannon p&s (that were not great imo but i was prolly using them wrong somehow) and a few SLR's and dSLR's. I just don't like the layout and menus and stuff in the SLR's I can never find what I want! I'm not into the whole Nikon vs Cannon thing really, they are both good and it's just whichever ya click with best. The lens is where the greater difference is, not the body. Anyway, I digress.
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